Otmar Szafnauer is expecting Esteban Ocon to quickly come up to speed and score early points as he starts his first full season with the Sahara Force India Formula 1 Team.
Ocon joins the squad in place of Nico Hülkenberg alongside Sergio Perez, and the Chief Operating officer of the Silverstone-based team is looking for both drivers to be in points scoring contention in order to try and protect the fourth place in the championship Force India achieved in 2016.
“We’re hoping that Esteban can learn very quickly, which is one reason that we chose him because he does show the ability to get up to speed quickly,” said Szafnauer to RACER.
“We will teach him how to drive our car and our hope is he can challenge Checo, to take over from Nico. It’s a big ask, Nico had a lot of experience and is a very quick driver himself, but I think Esteban has got the potential in time to take over from Nico and do a good job and push Checo along.
“I think it’s really important to have two drivers that can score points in the championship otherwise there’s a risk of falling behind. It’s important that Esteban steps up and scores points right away, early and often.”
With the biggest change of regulations in years coming into force in 2017, Szafnauer believes Ocon will have just as much to learn as the other drivers on the grid despite having only nine race starts under his belt following his debut with Manor Racing MRT in 2016.
“I think it’s a challenge for him just coming into the team, whether it’s an old car or a new car, but because all the cars are new I think that actually helps him relative to the others,” said Szafnauer.
“We’re just going to do the best job we can and see how that rattles out. We’re just going to make sure we’re the best prepared that we can be and then after that we’ll see where the others are. Whenever there is change there’s risk and opportunity, so we like to make sure that we’re stable, but we’re changing drivers so there’s always risk there.
“If you change personnel then there’s risk and opportunity. Usually the risk happens in the short term and the opportunity in the longer term. So one of the benefits of our team is the fact that we haven’t changed personnel that much over the winter. OK, we changed one driver but so have Williams, for example. Our senior management team has stayed the same, which is important.”